Canon and Nikon Are Approaching the Mirrorless Market From Opposite Sides, but Who Is Right?

Canon and Nikon Are Approaching the Mirrorless Market From Opposite Sides, but Who Is Right?

With Photokina behind us and the unprecedented amount of new cameras and lenses announced over the past few months, we’ve had some time to let the dust settle, and there is something very interesting about just how differently Canon and Nikon are approaching the full frame mirrorless camera market. The question is: who is right? 

Over the past few months, both Canon and Nikon have released their first full frame mirrorless cameras, Canon with the EOS R and Nikon with the Z7. Canon markets the EOS R as a sort of prosumer/enthusiast-level camera along the lines of the 6D Mark II and priced to match at $2,300 for the body — very similar to the 6D Mark II's price on release. This contrasts the Nikon Z7, which is being touted as a sort of mirrorless D850, and its $3,400 price tag suits this comparison very well.

While two cameras having different prices isn’t interesting, when we take a deeper look into their currently available, upcoming, and rumored lenses, we can see the different approaches that Nikon and Canon are taking with their mirrorless full frame cameras. Alongside Canon’s enthusiast-level camera, they have released four lenses: the 28-70 f/2L zoom, the 50mm f/1.2L, the 24-105 f/4L, and the 35mm f/1.8 Macro. If you notice, three of those four lenses are L branded, Canon’s professional-level branding. 

Photo by Adam Ottke used with permission

Comparatively, Nikon’s currently available lenses for the Z7 are the 35mm f/1.8, 50mm f/1.8, and the 24-70mm f/4. Now, I’m not saying that any of these lenses are bad lenses; they’re probably fantastic pieces of glass. But the 1.8 apertures really showcase that Nikon doesn’t necessarily seem to be targeting professionals with their lenses yet. They seem to be starting out by introducing a professional body and mostly prosumer lenses, while Canon seems to be releasing a prosumer body and professional lenses. It’s definitely an interesting approach from the both of them, but whose is better?

In my personal opinion, I feel that Canon’s approach is the proper route for now and the near-future (though in five or ten years, everything should all balance out). I’ve heard a great saying: “marry lenses, date bodies." Canon seems to really be banking on this outlook for their new mirrorless system. With the EOS R is seemingly targeted towards enthusiasts, their lenses are priced and specced towards professionals, and with their rumoured 14-21mm f/1.4L, Canon seems to be going all in on people buying the EOS R with the plan to upgrade in a year or two but buying their lenses to stay in the bag for much much longer. 

On the contrary, with the Z7, Nikon seems to be selling their pro-level camera first and banking on people either adapting their current glass with the FTZ mount adapter or buying lenses that are mostly going to get replaced once the 2.8/1.4 variants get released. I feel that both are respectable, smart approaches, and it will be interesting to see how the market reacts. But really, don’t we all win by having such fierce competition giving us better tools?

David J. Fulde's picture

David J. Fulde photographs people. Based in Toronto, ON, he uses bold lighting and vibrant colours to tell people's stories. His work in the film industry lends a cinematic energy to his photographs and makes for an always-colourful studio -- whether he's shooting portraits, fashion, or beauty.

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I am all in favor of marrying lenses. Time will tell no doubt.

It really just comes down to what is right for you.

Exactly! Iean, I use Fuji so I have no horse in this race ha ha

Wait, the Z7 is now a pro level camera? I thought that one of the reasons it didn't have dual card slots is because it's not really a "pro" level camera.

well price is "pro" level :D

Aren't Nikon's pro cameras $5,000 plus.

No, the single slot is why it's not a wannabe-pro fantasy camera. Different.

You want to tell that to the professionals who are already using the Z7 for commissioned, well paying assignment work?

I agree. I'm being a bit sarcastic as that was one excuse I heard for it not having dual card slots. There's no doubt that pros would be using the camera.

I have driven 3,383,838 miles in .my 87 jeep without one flat tire. i threw away my spare tire years ago to make room for more gear. I advise you to do the same. Live a little.

This is a terrific analogy. What others do when they shoot is fine with me. I've considered a professional shooter someone that will do whatever he/she can to ensure that the client receives the best chance for a pro product.

If I was paying for a wedding, I would ask the photographer if the camera he is using has two cards. His/her answer would mean the difference between a yes or a no. Yes, of course, I would have checked references and portfolios before contacting the photographer.

Sorry, if the shooter has a card failure at a critical time in the wedding such as the bride and father coming up the aisle, the shooter can't stop the ceremony and do a retake. Shooting a one off event is WAY different than shooting a portrait.

I don't do many paid shoots, but my camera has two slots and even if I'm shooting pictures at a zoo, both cards are taking in the data set on RAW. Yes, I did have a card fail (SD card in a 5DIII) but the CF card was fine. No data lost, lesson learned.

In all the millions of shots I have taken, only one cheap card ever failed and I was still able to retrieve data from it. Had an interface fail and that affected both card slots. Also dropped more than one camera in the water killing the body and lens, cards always survived. These days where cameras are getting more and more complex, the card is probably one of the strongest links.

Years ago one company made an SD card with two data paths and separate memory chips. They called it a Raid SD iirc. The theory was if one set of chips failed there was always a built in backup. Not sure if it actually made it to market, I am guessing cost was a bit high for the average user. Interesting concept though,

*edit - a little research and discovered there was also a CF card that pulled ff the same trick. You could use it in two modes, normal and mirrored. Obviously capacity halved in the latter mode.

Well, I haven't shot millions of shots, so my card failure is more of an issue than your failure. And my data was not retrievable, at least with the software I used. Granted, since I didn't have to panic because the CF card had the same data, I didn't go to extremes to get the card to work. It was a Sandisk, by the way, and not cheap by any stretch.

I only point out that it can happen. My question is why would a pro shooting a one off event like a wedding risk his/her reputation with a one card camera when there are plenty of two card cameras? The card may not be the weakest link, but why chance it?

Maybe Nikon is 'saying', "The Z7 is our enthusiast level mirrorless and what comes next will be freakin' awesome" and Canon is 'saying', "The EOS R, like the accompanying lenses, is as good as it's going to get." ;-)

If the Z7 is the enthusiast model what is the Z6? Canon released their enthusiast model first, pro model will come later as they have stated.

I was kidding. Maybe I should have put the winking smiley face in front. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Nikon's real pro model, $5,000 plus, will come before 2020 summer Olympics in Japan.

nikon did say there would be a pro level Z camera thats the alternative to the single digit dslr.

I wonder what that one will cost.

I would say that nikon pricing will be the same as their current flagship at the least. they are quite greedy as of late.

Do you think that the next will be a mirror less D5? I would commend them if they can pull it off, but it's a tall order. Sony's A9 is a terrific camera, but its build quality isn't in the same ball park as the D5 or the 1DxII, for that matter.

I just bought what I hope will be my last F mount lens today, Fall rebates started.
Ideally the new Z mount glass will be loads better.

Of course Canon is right. Because Canon will be the king of the mirrorless market. /s

I mean... I shoot Fuji. I have no dog in this fight ha ha

I thought I didn't post this. Oh well :D

"Of course Canon is right. Because Canon will be the king of the mirrorless market. /s"

Not yet. ;-)

none of them seems have the approach on "smaller" bodies & lenses...

And that made me happy. I am quite pleased that Canon and Nikon decided to keep their form more or less as is. I've never moved to Sony because they feel miserable in hand. Subjective for sure, but it's a deal breaker for me.

The answer is Sony unless you are a blind a canikon fanboy

David I believe you are missing a key point and that is weight. Many users are moving to Mirrorless to reduce weight. I hear this every day. If this is the case why would a Canon mirrorless user want to lug around the new 2 lb RF 50mm f1.2 lens that increases the weight they are carrying? They might as well stay with a DSLR.

Nikon on the other hand announces a Z mount 50mm f1.8 that weights 14 oz's. The Z mount 24-70 weights 1.10 lb and the 24-70 f2.8 weights 2.3 lbs. They obviously realize the mirrorless market wants lighter and smaller lenses. The f.95 Noct Z mount lenses that was announced obviously shows Nikon can produce faster professional lenses but is that what the bulk of the market wants ?

The fallacy with full frame mirrorless cameras is they are lighter, the problem is a 70-200 f2.8 still weights the same. By using an FTZ adapter you can put all the big heavy glass you want on the camera. What was missing in the market is smaller, lighter and sharper lenses. This is exactly the market Nikon has addressed and I believe the sales of the Z7 / z6 will bear this out.

Call your favorite local Nikon dealer and ask them about the ratio of Z7's with 24-70 vs Z7 bodies they have sold. The number of Z7 kits is 10 to 1. To me, this is just another indication that Nikon has taken the right path with a lighter more compact lens strategy.

I don’t think reducing size and weight is a huge driving force in the full frame mirrorless camera war here. As soon as one puts on pro /quality glass the size/weight benefits are gone. Holds true even with Sony.

Agreed, if you want to save weight and size you need to go (mirrorless) APS-C.

I haven't heard of anyone who actually wants to save weight and goes full frame.

I definitely did! I've been using full frame for 6 years and couldn't go back to APS-C but since I do mostly landscape and astrophotography I wanted a smaller/lighter setup for hiking to the places I shoot. Also for street shooting and travel camera I think the A7 series with tiny Samyang 35mm f2.8 lens is incredible.

Size obviously isn't the only reason to go mirrorless but it's definitely a driving factor for people.

Nikon laid all there cards on the table and consumers know what to expect. Canon revealed half their hand and only rumored to have a more pro oriented mirrorless coming. But the big ? Is how long will it take to release? Features? That’s the only hole in Canons approach.

The fact that Nikon and Canon have adapters that seem to work seamlessly with the EF lenses is a really big deal. This single fact makes the new FF entries a success because the Nikon and Canon faithful don't have to rid themselves of their native lenses to move to other FF mirror less.

The only way that Canon messes up with a later release of their 'pro R' is if it isn't a pro body like the 5DIV (I don't mention the 1DxII as I'm guessing that a mirror less version is quite a while in coming). It needs two cards, great tracking, good fps performance, and IBIS would be nice.

I agree. A higher pixel count isn’t necessary in my opinion but it would add to the appeal for some photographers.

Nikon has IBIS, and their sensors score better at DxO.

"But the 1.8 apertures really showcase that Nikon doesn’t necessarily seem to be targeting professionals"

The difference between 1.8 and 1.4 is ~2/3 stop, and costs at least $200 more. 1.8 is also better open all the way. It's meaningless.

IMHO it's a weight game, what do (Canon and Nikon's version of) early adopters want light weight vs performance. Looks like Canon is hedging it's bet with the 28-70 f/2L zoom and 24-105 f/4L being more versatile but heavier and much heavier than Nikon's 24-70mm f/4. But really guys it's the first 4 and 3 lenses. Not a huge sample size to predict a companies whole strategy.

I think the much more important aspect to this equation is not so much how Canon and Nikon have chosen to approach mirrorless design, but rather how the L Mount Alliance has. For reasons only known to themselves the big two have gotten into mirrorless late, after Sony has a very long head start on development and lens production. Canon and Nikon have also, according to their obvious business models, chosen to go it alone and develop their new systems by themselves. Of course they would do this, why wouldnt they.

But suddenly on the cusp of the Z and R reveals we see Leica, Panasonic and Sigma drop the synergy bomb. Wait a minute now, you're saying three very strong companies are banding together to build a system of bodies and lenses around a very capable and well thought out mount? A mount which hits the sweet spot of APSC and FF? A mount which already has a whole set of expensive, pro level glass available for it? Well now, I dont think Canon and Nikon were expecting anything in the way of that level of production cable competition.

With the Leica SL glass approaching or exceeding Canon L level quality and some fine Panasonic lenses right around the corner complemented by the very good Sigma Art glass the question is not how are Canon and Nikon approaching their mirrorless plans, but how are they going to keep up with the prodigious amount of lens and body options which will quickly be available from the LMA.

Rough estimates put around 30 full frame lenses out for the LMA bodies by the end of 2019 or beginning of 2020. And thats not counting the APSC glass that is already out for it. What was that Canon and Nikon roadmap again? Did I miss the part where they said they too would have out about 30 lenses in that time?

And Sigma has announced an EF to L mount adapter, so most or all Canon DSLR lenses can be adapted over to L mount bodes just like on the EOS R. Oh dear.

The question has quickly become (as it has been all along really) why Canon and Nikon have waited this long to get serious about mirrorless. It could possibly be too late. Probably not, but for two such industry 'giants' we shouldnt even be having this discussion.

How well will EF to mount adapter work? If it's like EF-E mount adapter, it won't good enough for professional. But you are correct, that alliance will be formidable for photographers and videographers.

True, I'm sure the Sigma option wont be quite as perfect as the Canon adapter. But if its close it will offer a viable option for those with Canon glass. Especially if the L mount bodies and lens options offer significantly more choice in a faster time frame then what Canon has. There are many other factors of course, such as AF ability and IQ. If Canon can clearly beat the LMA offerings in these and other areas then it will stop many from moving over, no matter how many bodies or lenses L mount has. But if there isnt CLEAR advantages over L mount then Canon might have some problems. Already I am looking at the apparent monster video specs Panasonic is putting in their bodies. We wont know until test units are out there, but I dont think Panasonic is going to hold anything back. They realize now is the time for market dominance. Moving slow and holding back features (which is right out of the Canon playbook) isn't going to get anyone a big piece of the pie right now. Anybody entering into mirrorless in this moment needs to have all guns blazing.

Completely agree with Panasonic not holding anything back. They are rather late when it come to FF market and will likely doing everything they can to be competitive in photo & video side to compete with the like of Canon, Sony, Nikon offerings.

The Panasonic jump into the FF market is interesting. I don't doubt that the cameras will take great pictures. Where I will wait to see is the focusing system. Will they match Nikon, Canon, and Sony?

Panasonic has 1 big plus for me and that's there choice of body style/size; much more like Canon and Nikon. It's a fun time to be a photographer!!

Amazing Glass > Newest Camera Body with "ALL THE TECH!!!!"

I don't get this "f1.8 are not pro lenses." I've been a pro for over 20 years in a very technical field, and have never owned a lens wider than f1.8. Is it a wedding photog thing?

Was this article published with no consideration of the Nikon Z6 being released in November? The Z6 is much more pro-sumer in terms of the specs and price. It would seem to better suit the 3 pro-sumer Z-mount lenses that Nikon has already released.

It does seem as though Nikon was banking on sales of the Z7 with people adapting their existing professional Nikon glass primarily. Canon seems to be pushing to attract people to their new platform as a starting point given the availability of better lenses off the bat. Both Canon and Nikon seemed to have been pushing to meet a certain price point, while intentionally holding back certain performance aspects for future iterations of these new mirrorless cameras. Nikon Z7, for example, has poor AF performance in burst mode, allowing a true AF-enabled 5fps. Canon for example has no IBIS in the EOS-R. WTF?

I'm thinking the marketing and release of these cameras is all wrong.

We've seen this time after time. A new release is upcoming and they tout it as the 'second coming' of all that's good in the photo world. And the mirrorless discussion is just that. We're a long way off from even pretending this is a viable option for people moving forward. The one company that has done some impressive work (SONY) sorrily lacks a glass catalog that anyone could brag about.

And with these releases by Nikon & Canon... yea... so, they're cameras. EVF capabilities are sorrily lacking at this point. And even when they become mainstream, people are always going to prefer real life views and not tiny TV screen inside their bodies. So -- release away! Just don't be claiming some 'new revolution' in the photographic world that will change how everyone shoots.

These two dogs have come out of the gate with more firmware flaws than Apple. And if you want to be the lug that lays down 3K (glass not included) to be part of their little experiment...THEN go onto forums and tout your silly purchase, more power to you. Just don't be shocked when people get on their hind legs and kick a little.

"But the 1.8 apertures really showcase that Nikon doesn’t necessarily seem to be targeting professionals with their lenses yet." << Can you please explain this line to me, sorry but that just doesn't make any sense to me?

They are both right by waiting this long to jump on mirrorless, others like Sony took a much larger risk by going first. Don't judge by their first offerings, they should be eating this new market within the next 5 years anyways.

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